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tv   Oral Histories Navajo Code Talker Samuel Jesse Smith Interview  CSPAN  May 28, 2019 8:06pm-9:01pm EDT

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and pass u.s. marine corps basic training then they were just taken and put into training as code talkers . you will hear it in the program the lament of jesse smith for example. they wanted a code talkers . he wanted to be a pilot because he could kill more japanese that way. the marines definitely needed people to go through the training and those came off of the other end of that job it was to be a code talkers . >> thank you for being with us. more from his documentary and interview with samuel jesse smith the navajo code talkers . >> during marine corps because of what happened at pearl harbor a sneak attack on the
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arizona in a sunk uss battleship arizona and two other ships i think missouri and i forget the other one -- oklahoma and the japanese came. sunday morning were when people were in the churches the kind of me off. as the days went i was only 15 somewhere i had to i wanted to join the marine corps. i have seen marines in the movies what they have been doing and of course i was -- i
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had a war going on in europe too. the sneak attack was the one that to me. i wanted to be a pilot for the marine corps so i joined two other people. one is a tribal judge that passed away not too long ago and the other one is -- late president of the code talkers . they were meant -- and i went with them. they were accepted on account of my age but after i walked outside i came back inside and told the recruiter that i made a mistake about my birth year.
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he let me change it and but he said he would let me finish 11th grade. so i did all three of us we went down to san diego at the boot camp which they said -- but it wasn't. the only thing about the boot camp was they made me drive shave drive shave -- dry shave. when we finished boot camp we would take tests and we were given a chance to -- i signed up for --. i passed the aptitude test but
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they came back no diploma. the next thing i wanted to do was to do dab it damage to the japanese. i chose artillery and by that time one of them came back and asked me if i was -- and i said yes sir. he said -- and i got in the jeep and he took me to camp pendleton. i didn't have a choice anymore after that. that was where i found a whole bunch of in one barracks.
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that was the navajo code training school that they were going to have. some of them were taken out and they found out some of those were not navajo so they were taken out to someplace else. i think he was -- that was my reason for joining the marine corps. i wanted to get even with the japanese very very bad. of course i was sorry about --
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but didn't matter much to me except it wasn't hard either. we had to memorize -- we had to learn all of those things i was doing all of that plus when i had to do the navajo code -- piece of because i learned how
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to use the machine to decipher messages which took a long time. doing the navajo code was a quick thing. i was in charge of the code talkers with the fourth division. i just think that must have been kind of the evaluation from the tests that we were given before we were chosen to go with the division. i was right next door to a g2 and general. that is where all of the things went wild.
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-- other people something is not going some marines and a group coming by and go with him. that was the way i was volunteered. >> that was the problem with iwo jima. i had a lot of close shaves on the in iwo jima. i was disappointed -- i think they did some on that island and the mountain didn't look so rough this time.
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the same morning we had is that is the first time with the japanese on the other side and us on this side. there was one japanese carrying a machine and that bothered me a lot. i got over it as we had our lunch there and then after all of the talks i didn't understand what they were saying but i know what our side said. i am kind of getting over my attitude towards the japanese and i figure this will heal my
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nightmares and all of those things that i suffer. i have a broken big toe because i have had nightmares and a good thing i was laying a way for my wife because i kicked the wall and busted my big toe. i went to the hospital and they told me i'm too old to fix it to let it be the way it will be. that is -- i am glad to be here and sharing with you my story. i am going to thank you right away for the chow. >> just because i know you just
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met these people but started on this journey with his son -- wondered if leaving it in the battlefield but with your son is there is anything more you could tell us about that experience? >> naturally i am very proud of my son. he is an out standing marine himself. he brought home to our navajo nation parade in the fall and the whole marine corps followed him. they brought their white horses and it was really neat to see a whole bunch of marines there.
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his blues were free. i am proud of him and he is a lot of help to the group. -- right now he is and also i never talk to like this to my children but he is learning what i did and hopefully he will tell his brothers and sisters someday. indians don't talk about -- the white people don't either.
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they don't talk about -- from other people that i had met on the trips anywhere. the division we did islands first and then saipan and later iwo jima. we were based on maui island so that short period two years nine months is all i served. i had enough battles to get out and reach october 3 was when i
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was sent back to san diego. >> i came in the second day part of the -- to set up command posts and the g2.
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those are the people regiments and one division. they are the ones that moved -- the true movement or make requests for additional troops and all of that. where i hit the beach i don't know but there were some buildings and they said that was the banks. i believed it because there was money all over on the ground, japanese yen which was no good to us. then there was what looked like what had been a drugstore that was there which is where we set
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up and we set up the communication center right there and i noticed next morning there was that they had made. they had done that three times and then everything went quiet. then i found looking around i found some metals the code talkers , they came on over and i don't remember which one it was. that was about the fourth day and things were getting --.
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that is about all i remember until we left. i didn't get to see the general there. i don't know where he was, i didn't ask. there were other communications people there and they made trips. like in saipan they said all of the communications systems that were not out so i had to carry a message. they told me where the position was but it wasn't there.
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didn't do much except when i would send a message i don't remember messages they were all important messages that is about all i can tell you with this one. i didn't do much. i was only getting $50 a month. >> most of us read the battle
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and know what a ferocious battle it was and much longer than anticipated. i was just inquiring about your physical and mental health -- long time ago and really didn't remember, how about you? did you remember? >> knowing you are in a war you don't feel those things. you are never tired, you don't care to sleep or until you are given the opportunity to sleep and he can say go ahead and sleep in the middle of it. that is enough --
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>> far from the battlefield. that is the way it was with him. i don't know about these -- i
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don't care because i know i have been there. other books may be the same way. >> any kind of personal feelings about being here on this trip and any particular feelings it might generate >> the way we were accepted from the people and how they had appreciated -- little bit
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more prouder to hear them getting the congressional -- people that showed their appreciation they can makes a lot of difference this is the real thing and that is the way it was. after i got discharged to show my grandpa i had been a warrior and that i had returned to them to show them i am now a man to them because they said a prayer
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my grandpa he told me i was not yet a man do the same for mame and things you think are important i can get -- what i told them so continued and prayer continued -- because he told me he would make me a warrior and some things happened to me in battle and i gave them credit for it. i was with the to the general
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and a safe place to be with the general but it wasn't when we hit the beach here the general wanted to come in right away as a warrior bus doing -- the first have to use the code to send messages -- everything was to go so long in the plan go so
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long only thing we did here was to send change the password and send it out to all of the and pass it down to the. the first two or three days i don't remember or recognize the beach because at the time it didn't matter to me all that mattered was to get done and get even with the japanese. about 200 or 300 yards somewhere and -- then later
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they start i guess they located the generals position somehow. towards the evening the general got by himself but two minutes or maybe less than two minutes -- i hear him cussing so that is what happened and what scared me was gasoline near us and i was hoping really hard they won't hit me.
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my part hitting that beach and i barely remember every once in a while we show something up ahead. i was always one of them that would go up with my radio but i never carried a radio. i never carried a radio. it was always carried for me and there were many times i would have to use or if they would hear something strange they would call me, they would call me checking on me. i would go over there and find out who was talking. that was my job.
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i remember going up to the sort of middle and i saw a lot of things and i remember now of these -- i saw most of them was bad. that was my part in --. it was getting to me but i am happy to be here with all of you to keep me strong. i love all of you here and i am thankful that my son came with me today for me. it is a blessing to be among
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you and treat me the way you are. i thank you for that very much. >> thank you. >> making that trip going back i was never going to go back but since it was for education i decided i would make the trip back over there and see how it comes out. since we could leave it behind us for future generations and
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when i went back to these islands the people i met looked like us. i never knew that we went into battle and for the japanese of what they did at pearl harbor. i wanted to get even with that anyway i could i didn't know --. i wanted to fly and be a pilot. i was relieved and limited and talking with them several days
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i was somewhat relieved i still don't like it but it just took something out of me. the most was to defend my land as we who we say mother earth is our land. that is something i have to defend and that is the reason i went and chose the marine corps as i have seen that they were the toughest group they are
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called army ranger, paratroopers. the marine is still the best. once a marine always a marine >> what kind of a lasting experience was that for you? in the last series you took two rather interesting trips what long-lasting impact is that have? >> i didn't get the question. >> the impact of having made these choices with your son as
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you know you are very fortunate to get the funding to take a young companion with you from your family. i'm just wondering how that had an impact on you and your son and family in general. >> well my son is a good marine himself. i am proud of him very very much. i am glad he was the one that went with me on those trips. i don't know what he got out of it but i am glad he was the one that went. if i didn't he would be the one to -- my experience because end of his and he knows what i did.
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>> what i wondered jesse is that coming back having founded to share the experiences of going back to the battlefield with family members the daughter as well as everybody in this room then it would become easier for you to tell the stories of the war because you've been back over there? >> our tradition as a navajo not to talk about war but education wise i am glad to share it with them, maybe from the movie or maybe -- i should
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not talk about it how we use the language. it is sacred and but the tradition at the time more openly it would have continued when i came home and told my mother right away she somehow sent word to my grandpa and my grandpa came to the ceremony before i went like everybody that goes into the service going to war so that was what happened. when my grandpa came he felt my
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arm and said grandson -- you're not old enough to go to war and i said i want to go to war. -- united states government. during that time the navajo were really afraid of the government the united states uncle sam. my mother said that is all right. go my son so she got my grandpa to do ceremony and then i told my grandpa the same thing and he said okay well i will make you a warrior so you can fight the japanese and he did. i had to pray from about 11:00
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until 4 am the next morning and as he was praying i was repeating after him all night to become a warrior that is the tradition of the navajo. also my mother told me to leave my clothes when i wear the shirt pants and shoes everything she put that in a bundle so she could take it to some ceremonial that is for the same reason. all of the time i was in the service overseas she was having prayers said for me while i was over there. my grandpa gave me -- and the
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black arrowhead to wear around my neck. i took that one and the officers respect that. while i was in the service they never pointed that out. i wore it all the time while i was in combat. when i got home the same grandpa came back all of my relatives, my brothers and sisters said -- he took out a bag and took me inside -- all
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the way and took me back out. he did some prayers for me and then he said we will go inside that is the tradition. that is the way to do it. that same night they had a square dance to change out evil spirits and that same grandpa came back and that time i got promoted. that night i prayed again all night. i said -- he said you are a warrior. i was promoted to warrior. the metals don't mean anything to me but having been a navajo
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and defending my land for the navajo that is what i am, a warrior. that is what tradition carries. i don't know if they still do those things nowadays. i would like for the future generations to respect that. >> it sounded like to me that this battered and bruised marine after seeing all of that death and destruction comes back into a culture that made it possible for you to what can
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i say, get rid of the demons of war so your culture very very important as far as coping with what you had seen on the battlefield would that be correct? >> it would still come together to respect tradition is one way. in other words doing it the right way, that is what happened. of course my grandpa took us to -- and i told him i want to keep that one and he told me, don't be selfish, this will go overseas again. the other time i spoke with him
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had gone overseas twice and after that he passed away and had no way of asking where that feather is. i don't know who took it. -- combat but i was raised like a boot camp when i was growing up. i had to get up early before sunrise and it was like a boot camp and we grew up from that high up and that's how i got to meet the challenge with no
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difficult. the effect we had on that one -- >> so even to this year you still have feelings towards the japanese that aren't good? >> yes. once upon a time i spoke to a medicine man and he told me to forgive them and i said no way. i said i still don't like them. i don't know why i had that feeling. i had that feeling done to me
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when i was very young, 14 years old when they hit pearl harbor i know how to get rid of it. it always comes back to me just that way. otherwise going over these things is all right to do. >> didn't seem sacred -- and you see somebody oriental and you really don't know that they are japanese or not you can just tell they are asian. do you have that same feeling? >> i just don't have nothing to do with them. from anywhere. i remember one time
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when we marched, when i was still able to get in the parade in march, that we came through washington d.c.. when the president takes over, we come through there we passed the french and the japanese, they were crying when they saw us, they were crying. i don't know why but that's the only time we saw them. of course nowadays, people talk to us for autographs and books. some men cry, some women cry. they beg us to have them serve their relatives, their grandpa's their uncles. that's a good
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feeling. but the japanese, i want nothing to do with them. maybe chinese but as long as their eyes are slanted it's my feeling like that. i don't know maybe it will never get out of me. that was the bad part for the iwo jima visit. >> did you know that for one of -- he wrote an essay and he applied for a scholarship called warriors for peace. he got the scholarship based on his essay and
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it's going to be published and it comes from an organization in santa fe. he mentioned both you and me and kevin . all being marines and the reason why he would not join any of the armed forces. i think that was part of it is that when you go to war and you experience these things then you have things that are inside you that don't come out sometimes. he did not want those bad feelings and that's when he put in, he respects his grandpa for being a navajo and is dead for being a marie and kevin for being a marine but for him he knows what it is through our stories and so he would rather be working for peace instead
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of being part of the military. even though i think that for me going back to iwo jima and saipan i think iwo jima is the one that hit me the most because when you go there there is nothing there and it still the same thing that it was back in world war ii which was an airbase. there is no development in the japanese are still occupying it and i think that's one of the things that surprised me and i really did not know is that they -- the united states gave the iron back to japan and you hear the stories about it being one of the
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battles that will love on in american history and you wonder why they give back an island that so many americans lost their lives on. i am glad that you were part of -- that you were a navajo code talker at iwo jima and the things that you guys did, you were able to help the marine corps take the island. i think that if it wasn't for you guys it would have been a lot more people that had lost their lives and when i think about that and when we went to visit the island it just makes me realize what a significant contribution my
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father did for the united states. for me you have always been my hero because you have always taken the time to teach me the things that i needed to know in order to grow into myself. everything that i know is rooted from what you taught me as i was growing up into me you were always my hero. it was not until i think i had done the things in order to earn that respect from you to feel it come back toward me. but to
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think that the contribution that you did for the united states and for the marine corps and for our people, the navajo people, just using our language and the things that you guys knew, it just makes me really proud and i know that my brothers and sisters they are all proud of you as well. i don't know dad, it's just unbelievable to know that you have done the things that you did in the marine corps. when i heard you tell your story when we were on guam about being with general capes in the fourth grade division and how you guys landed on saipan and the things that you did there, it helped me to realize how special we are to
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have you and to have you as a father and have you come back. i don't know dad, it's just awesome. i think like right now i am really grateful that i have this opportunity to tell you how i feel because i know that there are people that live their lives in the philly things for their parents and they never get an opportunity to tell them. that's why i am glad that i went on this trip with you to guam and to tinning and saipan and iwo jima to see what kind of contribution that you have done because for me when
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you said yes i thought in tinian, it was someplace way way way far away because here on the reservation, this is home. but when you go out there you don't realize you know how it is and how it was but after hearing you talk and you tell me the things that have happened, it's just very significant i think. i am grateful for that. >> thank you. american history tv products are now available at the new c-span online door. go to c-span store.org to see what is new for american history tv and check out all
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of the c-span products. the reviews are in for c-span's the president's book. it recently top the new york times new and noteworthy column. some call it a milepost evolving in an ever changing reputations of our president and from the new york journal of books the president make a fast engrossing read. graduations and father's day fast approaching c- span's the president make a great gift. read about how noted presidential historians rank the best and worst chief executive from george washington to barack obama. explore the life events that shaped our leaders challenges they face and the legacies they have left behind. c-span's the presidency is now available as a hardcover or e-book today at c-span.org slashed the presidents. or wherever books are sold. george colburn is a lawmaker and historian in

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